Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 15 September 2010

Text settings
Comments

Stay tuned for live coverage of today's Cameron vs Harman clash from 1200.

1200: A prompt start. Cameron begins with condolences for the fallen in Afghanistan. Clegg grabs the PM by the elbow as he sits down - making sure there wasn't an embarrassing lap-sitting moment, I think.

1201: Julian Smith asks whether it is "irresponsible" of Labour to back union strikes. Cameron says it is, natch,

1203: A dignified start by Harman. She passes on her congratulations for the Cameron's new baby, and her condolences for the death of his father. Her question is about what progress the government is making on tackling human trafficking.

1204:
Cameron quips that Harman is "by far the most popular" Labour leader he's ever faced across the dispatch box. He adds that he's doing all he can to tackle the "evil" of trafficking.

1205: A good-natured session, this. Responding to Cameron's praise, Harman says that she's "lucky I wasn't wearing a hoodie today". Cameron holds out his arms...

1207: Harman's stepping up her questioning now - accusing the Tories of turning their back on EU directives on trafficking.

1208: Cameron says that the government shouldn't "just sign up" to any EU directive, that they should strengthen the UK's own provisions.

1209: For her final question, Harman asks whether PMQs should take place twice a week - "now that the Prime Minister knows how enjoyable it is."

1210: Cameron grins that PMQs is "one of the few ideas by Tony Blair that I wholeheartedly approve of." He then points out Harman and her husband have seven votes between them in the Labour leadership election. "Democracy's a beautiful thing!" he trills.

1212: Responding to backbench questions, Cameron emphasises the need for welfare reform - and he makes the point that the coalition isn't really cutting capital spending any more than Labour planned.

1213: Cameron claims that the defence budget was the messiest that the coalition inherited. "£38 billion overcommitted," he adds.

1215: The PM goes out of his way to defend the ringfenced international development budget. "I think it is right, even when we have budget constraints at home, that we can hold our head high abroad."

1217: Cameron responds to a question that Labour are making more and more frequently: how, if the PM believes in the Big Society, can he explain funding cuts for voluntary groups? Yvette Cooper has been forcing this point over the past few days.

1218: Priti Patel mentions the spending cuts in Cuba that Alex blogged about yesterday. It tees Cameron up for a gag at Labour's expense: "Even Comrade Castro is on the same planet as the rest of us. Now we just need to get Labour and the unions across as well."

1219: Due praise from the PM for those struggling for democracy in Burma.

1221:
Cameron stresses that money has been "put back into" college building.

1223: A dose of finger-prodding as Cameron pushes Gove's school reform: "What we need is more good school places". Very true.

1225: Woah, Cameron very much on the front foot as Vernon Coaker brings up Building Schools for the Future. "What a disastrous and messy programme that was," the PM barks. He then starts rattling through the bureaucracy that schools used to have to get entangled with. The coalition is clearly more determined to make a better case for its education reforms.

1227:
Relatively speaking, there hasn't been much deficit talk during this PMQs - but here's Cameron now talking about Labour's "appalling legacy."

1229:
Cameron says that he is "determined" to help any people who unfairly lost money in Northern Ireland during the financial crash.

1230: And that, right on time, is it. My quick verdict shortly.

VERDICT: On the whole, a good-spirited, freewheeling kind of PMQs which didn't really trouble Cameron at all. His exchanges with Harriet Harman alternated between being dignified and jokey, with neither side looking to land any severe blows. And even the backbenchers seemed to ratchet down the fierce politicking that has defined PMQs of late. The only real moment of fire from Cameron was also the session's most important: in attacking Vernon Coaker over the "disastrous" Building Schools for the Future programme, he showed a sure-footedness that the coalition lacked before the summer break. A classy performance from the PM.